Words and Photos by Adam Parshall
A balmy Sunday evening in the middle of Worcester in a venue that can hold 500 people doesn’t seem like a spot you’d think you’d be seeing the Menzingers in 2019, given how they’ve blown up in the past five-plus years. But for a band that espouses the romance of basements and the American suburban landscape as much as they do, it feels like a proper Massachusetts homecoming for the beloved Philly four-piece.
Openers Queen of Jeans felt right at home starting off the night – their jangly post-punk mixed with bursts of high-intensity jamming AND yes, shredding, gave the front few rows plenty of time to start bouncing along and warm up to eventual headbanging and more rowdiness.
After QOJ, Cleveland’s Sidekicks took the stage with their own take on driving, melodic power-pop. Frontman Steve Ciolek regularly tested the durability of his kneecaps and ACLs, frequently bouncing around the stage and dropping to his knees to solo and jazz up the crowd. I’d dare you to find a livelier live band than the Sidekicks: between tossing his guitar in the air or getting right up in the front row’s face clapping, Ciolek and his band know when they have a hook, and they milk it for all it’s worth.
The Menzingers were prepared to pull out all the stops for this run to Worcester. The mythology that they and their fans have built into the band is one that echoes the protagonist of “After the Party,” where every venue turns into a basement, every crowd into a community. Not once did the crowd stop pulsing against the stage, with a crowd surfer jumping off less than a second into opener “Tellin’ Lies.” As fitting as it is to see the Philadelphia four-piece now headlining clubs like the House of Blues across the country, it’s even more fitting when they can give a performance that STILL has fans saying “remember when they played <insert smaller venue here>?” The crowd was bouncing from note one, growing increasingly exuberant, sweaty, and hoarse throughout the night.
Co-singers Greg Barnett and Tom May bounced around the stage with reckless abandon, crowd surfers and stage divers ruled the night as the playfully destructive pop-punk chords of songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” “Thick as Thieves,” and “Burn After Writing” kept energy and sweat levels high. Despite their Philly roots, the Menzingers are always especially careful to play to their Massachusetts audience. Ok maybe “careful” is the wrong word because people from Massachusetts have a tendency to go batshit insane when you say the words “Massachusetts” and “Boston” in songs. Cue two wildly beloved Menzingers tracks “Your Wild Years” and closer “In Remission.” Good on the band for continuing to close with “In Remission.” The rhythm of the night just ends perfectly when it’s consistent bounce starts hitting people. And, of course, us Massachusetts residents get to scream “I’ve got a winning lotto ticket from the state of Massachusetts tucked in the back of my wallet I’ll cash it when I’m back in Boston.” I think the Menzingers would agree – their love of playing venues like the Palladium upstairs will never go away, and I think we can all count ourselves lucky that they do this kind of smaller venue run pretty regularly.